Frank came in April when our daughter was in the hospital with severe pneumonia. His presence was a gift and an essentail aspect of that gift was that he focused on practical things, like meals, saying, Don’t you think it’s time for lunch, or dinner, or coffee? So one afternoon we shared a late lunch at the Bacchus and inevitably we began to reminisce.
When Rose, our daughter, was growing up, I owned Accents West at the corner of Willson and Main. Our little family ate a lot of meals just kitty-corner, at the Bacchus. Rose began her career there as a waffle fries and spaghetti junkie.
On this April afternoon Frank and I each have a Hippie Burger and though I don’t mention it, the name and the garnish of artichoke hearts remind me of UC Santa Cruz, 1975 — hippie central — and Castroville, self-proclaimed artichoke capital of the world where we shared french-fried artichoke hearts. Santa Cruz was beyond-beyond to Frank, a Crow Indian, fresh off the reservation and primarily a native speaker. We lived with room mates in a house not far from the ocean. The sound of the waves breaking on the shore at night made him uneasy. So did a diet heavy on vegetables. His parents sent care packages of dried venison.
Frank looks across Main at Chalet Sports and says how it used to be a disco. Do I remember?
I have survived the ins and outs of my life by developing an ability to forget so adept it sometimes worries me. A disco?
I do remember Bozeman’s first video store, right around the corner in the Downtowner Mall. Due west from Accents West, we spent a lot of time there, rented The Muppet Musicians of Bremen for Rose again and again and again.
Frank talks about getting espresso at Cactus Records, sharing sips with his friend Gunnar. I remember Leaf and Bean being the first place to buy espresso, had forgotten that Gunnar had a coffee bar in the basement at Cactus, can almost dredge up that memory.
Bozeman was so condensed then, the downtown both vital and varied. The Chronicle had offices where the Salvation Army is now. There was a newspaper — the HighCountry News — in a space near Willson and Main. Downtown embraced bakeries. Burger shops and greasy spoons. A Chinese restaurant with retro booths and not very good food. A toy shop. Two pharmacies and a soda fountain. Sears demoed appliances in the space that became Schnees and is now a whiskey tasting room. JC Penny’s was somewhere nearby, with squeaky maple floors and florescent fixtures that hummed. Chambers Fisher Department Store next to the Ellen Theater had an escalator that Rose visited as often as possible, looping from the first to second floor, then down again.
She was born in a south-facing room in the old Bozeman Deaconness Hospital, just a couple blocks north of Chamber’s Fisher, where the Mountain View Care Center is now.
I remember yellow daffodils in my room, snow on the ground. I had an emergency C-section. Rose had a hard-to-take-in diagnosis of Down Syndrome, breathed in a machine and fought the jaundice lights. She and I stayed in the hospital a week. Friends brought me food — I was a vegetarian then — and Frank tucked in to what the hospital served.
Now Rose fights for breath again and I share this meal with her dad who had not been an active part of our lives for some twenty years. And then these past four he began to visit. First for Rose’s March Birthday and then again in the summer, the fall. That ground work has made it possible for us to enjoy each other, to now function together as parents, as advocates for Rose’s healing, her breathh.
It’s that odd friendship, relatedness, that allows the swapping of stories and memory. We stay in safe territory, leaving so much unexplored. Just the same, To know we have good memories, can share our life’s pleasures and challenges now, is a good thing. A gift that brings both a sense of pleasure and of loss.
Bozeman is not what it was. We are not who we were and yet . . .
Jenna Caplette migrated from California to Montana in the early 1970s, first living on the Crow Indian reservation, then moving to Bozeman where she owned a downtown retail anchor for eighteen years. These days she owns Bozeman BodyTalk & Energetic Healthcare, hosts a monthly movie night, teaches and writes about many topics.